Putting the coy into coitus: sex manual for ultra-Orthodox Jews aims not to offend

IN THE beginning (of the 1970s) there was Dr Alex Comfort’s groundbreaking The Joy of Sex, which included having nookie on a moving motorcycle and humping on horseback, two practices removed in later editions for health and safely reasons.

Then, in 2003, came another explicit and controversial offering from Terry Sanderson (yep, THAT Terry) called The Gay Man’s Kama Sutra.


Now we have The Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy, which has no illustrations ‘cept some rudimentary drawings of faceless folk concealed in a sealed envelope at the back of the book.

According to this BBC report, that’s been done in order to give minimal offence to its target audience: ultra-Orthodox Jews. If they are too squeamish to look at them, they can rip off the envelope and throw it away.

It’s the brainchild of Jerusalem-based therapist Dr David Ribner, who had to be ultra-cautious in dealing with the subject of sex for a group that insists that boys and girls are educated separately, and have little interaction with the opposite sex until their marriage night, when they are expected to consummate their union.

Dr David Ribner

Dr David Ribner

Physical touch with the opposite sex – even something like a handshake – is only permitted with one’s spouse and close family members. Access to films and the internet is often restricted too.

The Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy, which Ribner co-wrote with Orthodox researcher Jennie Rosenfeld, starts with the very basics – explaining, for example, how the body shape of men and women differs.

Ribner says Judaism regards sex as something positive, but it has become taboo to discuss it openly.

Sex is only appropriate within a marital context. Beyond that it’s not talked about. Because of that, it’s become very difficult for people to have any kind of dialogue about it.

In Israel’s Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox community, there are manuals written for brides and grooms-to-be, to help guide them on the subject of intimacy in married life, but they employ allegorical, vague terminology and no explicit how-to instructions on matters of sexual intercourse. So Ribner’s book enters uncharted territory.

Ribner said of the illustrations:

We wanted to give people a sense of not only where to put their sexual organs, but where to put their arms and legs. If you have never seen a movie, never read a book, how are you supposed to know what you do?

The book is direct in its language and touches on subjects that may be uncomfortable for some, including oral sex and masturbation.

When the Hebrew edition is released in a few weeks’ time, it could create quite a storm, says Menachem Friedman, a professor and sociologist who has written numerous books on Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community.

I suspect it will meet tremendous negative reaction – at least within the most extreme elements of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

But he agrees that such a book is sorely needed, and foresees brisk behind-the-counter sales .

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

15 responses to “Putting the coy into coitus: sex manual for ultra-Orthodox Jews aims not to offend”

  1. chrsbol says:

    Hang on a minute! I thought marriage was designed to stop sex?

  2. Har Davids says:

    The less the Orthodox know about sex, the better. Not knowing how and where to combine the naughty bits is the best way of birth-controle available to these people. And how does a female Orthodox researcher, Jennie Rosenfeld, get into the picture?

  3. David Anderson says:

    Makes you wonder how we ever managed to arrive up to the point of the printing press without books about sex.
    It may not have been “good” sex, but sex it was.

  4. Trevor Blake says:

    I’m curious how the author handles Devarim (also known as Deuteronomy), where we learn the G_d given rules for slave rape (21:11-14). It’s okay to have slaves and rape them, but if you get tired of them you can let them go. Praise to G_d almighty!

  5. Daz says:

    Trevor Blake

    Presumably slave-rape is a myth, as no one back then had a book telling them that master-tab A needed to be inserted into slave-slot B…

  6. tony e says:

    Here is a handy tip – dim the lights, crack out the beer and put some Barry White on – nature will do the rest.

  7. David Anderson says:

    tony e: Noooo, that’s contraception.

  8. stokebruernehuman says:

    The minds of the pious are truly constipated.

  9. Angela_K says:

    @David Anderson “Makes you wonder how we ever managed…”

    Good point, other Primates manage quite well. Of course the religious ignore the evidence that we share a common ancestor with these Primates!

  10. Barry Duke says:

    Am I the only one who’s mystified by the need for such a book?

    An American study showed that orthodox Jews produce far more children than their less observant counterparts – an average of 3.3 children are born into “modern Orthodox” families; 6.6 in Haredi or “ultra-Orthodox” families and a whopping 7.9 in Hasidic families. (

    So clearly they already know what goes where, and don’t need books, beer and Barry White.

  11. Stonyground says:

    I recall reading a story in the Daily Mirror* about a German married couple, both from a Christian background, who had gone to a fertility clinic because she wasn’t getting pregnant. This turned out to be because they had both had such a sheltered upbringing that neither of them knew what to do.

    *I never buy newspapers but people at work used to buy them and then leave them lying around. I am also very aware of the fact that tabloid stories are often only partly true, or not true at all, partly due to my having followed this blog for quite some time.

    You can get a rough date for this story from the fact that, at the time, the Mirror was printing daily pictures of Russian pop duo Tatu in the buff.

  12. Matt Westwood says:

    Similar tale from when I was in the Middle East.

    Man goes to hospital because “My wife is barren. Make her bear my children.”

    They tested her, and she’s perfectly fertile. Difficult situation, how to break it to him that he may be the one with the problem. Eventually found a diplomatic way of getting a sperm sample from him. And indeed, he too is perfectly fertile.

    So, what is the problem. So they asked him, delicately and sensitively, what is it that goes on between him and his wife when they are alone together and intimate?

    “Simple,” replied the man. “I do to her what my uncle did to me when I was a little boy.”

  13. Esther says:

    To all those snide remarks about “why do they need this if they have so many kids?” . First, many do not have this problem. Second, plenty “do it” but for procreation and don’t know about getting pleasure from it. Give some credit to the rabbi and many others who are trying to fix this warped situation.
    To those asking “how do they not know”: they dont watch any tv, internet or print media. they dont see people or animals “doing it” as would have been in societies 100 years ago or more. so how are they supposed to know? Surprise! there are people out there that listen to their religion’s rules about modesty, and yes,sometimes to a fault. The answer is to try to help them with respect and caring, not with ridicule.

  14. barriejohn says:

    Esther: You are right. I know this from my experiences with the Plymouth Brethren, who NEVER mention sex, yet have fucking thousands of sprogs! However, if you look at the “About” page, you will come across the words of Freethinker founder, G W Foote, from the first issue in 1881:

    The Freethinker is an anti-Christian organ, and must therefore be chiefly aggressive. It will wage relentless war against Superstition in general, and against Christian Superstition in particular. It will do its best to employ the resources of Science, Scholarship, Philosophy and Ethics against the claims of the Bible as a Divine Revelation; and it will not scruple to employ for the same purpose any weapons of ridicule or sarcasm that may be borrowed from the armoury of Common Sense.

    If you don’t like sarcasm, go elswewhere!